Michael Schwartz on Fi'lia, His New Italian Concept at the SLS Brickell

The SLS Brickell has just announced its opening date and two signature restaurants. The hotel, located at 1300 S. Miami Ave., is slated to open in early October and will be the home to José Andrés' Bazaar Mar, a seafood-centric version of the chef's popular the Bazaar by José Andrés in Miami Beach. 

The property will also house Fi'lia, an Italian concept by Michael Schwartz. The restaurant, which means "daughter" in Italian, will offer Italian food based on the chef's locavore philosophy. Fi'lia will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. With the chef expanding his restaurant portfolio to include everything from fine dining to fast casual, what can diners expect from Fi'lia?

According to Schwartz, the restaurant will fall somewhere between Cypress Tavern and Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in terms of feel and level of service. The decor will feature lots of wood, and a wood-burning grill and pizza oven will be focal points of the room. According to the chef, who spent the first decade of his culinary career cooking Italian cuisine, the concept just made sense. "I've been really lucky in my career, and I was thinking about things I want to cook and eat and environments I want to be in. Those ideas resonated with people."
The chef says Fi'lia will not focus on any set Italian cuisine. "I'm not trying to be authentic, obviously, but there will be a foundation in proper Italian cooking. The food will be very ingredient-driven, with a super-pared-down menu with a nod to the Mediterranean — bright food paired with homemade pastas, pizzas, and our own bread program. It's how I like to eat."

Schwartz also describes the impetus for the restaurant's caesar salad cart. "Everyone loves a caesar salad, but it's been so bastardized that you rarely get a good one. I was talking to [chef] Marc Vetri at an event for Alex's Lemonade Stand, and he started talking about tableside caesar salads. He went into great detail about rubbing the bowl with garlic and mashing the anchovies and making the emulsion, and I just wanted to have a caesar salad right at that moment. 

"When planning the menu, we wanted to make a dynamic dish, so we designed these carts with a built-in griddle that will toast garlic bread to order, with the idea that the scent will waft throughout the room. Then we designed the caesar cart. My team and I sat down and thought this thing out — how big the bowl is going to be, what ingredients to use, the delicate balance of a coddled egg and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I think this is a great snapshot of what we want to create — something unctuous yet back-to-basics."

The restaurant will introduce a cocktail program created by Eric Larkee. "The cocktail program is so amazing," Schwartz says. "Eric took the ball and ran with this one. I don't want to give away too much, but there are some aperitif and low-alcohol drinks. They're very creative and sensible, not gimmicky. I'm really excited to introduce them. No one is doing this stuff."

Schwartz also wants to make the restaurant's breakfast and lunch interesting. "Some people shy away from breakfast and make the obligatory omelet, but we're excited about breakfast. I think what's important is recognizing that it is in a hotel, so we want guests and travelers to feel comforted. But we can establish that without having a turkey club and an omelet station. We can find comfort in food that is creative and tasty and not predictable and uninspired."

The James Beard Award winner is also looking forward to forging into the ever-growing Brickell neighborhood. "It's exciting to see. The area has changed a lot since we started the project. I never saw the Brickell City Centre coming. Our partner is SBE, and they create dynamic environments. Being at a hotel that's designed by Philippe Starck and having a restaurant situated in a neighborhood that has good walking traffic checks every box for us."
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss